Campaign launched to buy Granary Staithe in Hoveton

Moves have begun to safeguard the future of an historic riverside site in Hoveton as a public open space.

Granary Staithe next to Wroxham Bridge is the only undeveloped waterside area in the heart of the village and is a popular spot for locals and visitors to view the river and its wildlife.

However, a question mark was placed over its future in December when site owner Norfolk County Council put it up for sale for �250,000, alternatively offering it on a 10 year lease at �25,000 a year.

Following a public meeting last month when 40 local residents gave overwhelming support to the idea of buying the land for the village, a parish council working party has been formed to firm up proposals.

It is understood that the county council's property arm, Norfolk Property Services (NPS), has already received a number of inquiries about the site which it describes in its marketing document as 'undoubtedly a key gateway site to the Norfolk Broads'. Proposals are thought to include a children's fun fair and an amusement park.

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Councillor Peter Howe, a member of the working party, questioned the price put on the land by NPS and said the parish council would be seeking its independent valuation.

He said: 'Having talked to the Broads Authority, it is clear planning conditions for the site are very strict and it is unlikely anything could be built there.'

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Mr Howe, who runs a local cycle hire business, said he hoped the parish council might be able to agree the purchase for closer to �50,000 and would initially be seeking grant funding, making up the difference through a public appeal.

He emphasised that any scheme would have to be fully funded through sources other than the precept.

He said: 'Our vision is to keep it as a public open space but it is a bit tatty at the moment and we would be looking to enhance it and provide a new access into the precinct behind it.'

He suggested new seating and flower tubs could be an attractive feature of the land, which historically was where wherries used to moor to unship grain for the site's former granary.

'The staithe has exciting potential as an area for tourists and the local community and we would welcome suggestions,' he said.

Ideas already being explored include the creation of a public performance area for morris dancing and other events including live music and drama.

He said: 'The history of the village could do with some more investigation and the site could be a good place for some sort of display.

'We would be looking for the help of local people in researching local history.'

A county council spokesman said after a receiving a number of interests in December they had decided to engage with parish council.

She said: 'They are doing a feasibility study and we expect to hear from them in April or May.'

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